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Going To Extremes
Bizarre Life Forms Thrive Beneath the Earth's Surface
Deep within the planet may be the best place to find new life
forms on our planet -- and glean clues to possible life on others.
Vaporous hot pools far beneath the Earth's surface support microbes
conducting the business of life at extreme temperatures and pressures.
The microbes, some of which are bacteria, are all called extremophiles,
and their potentially far-reaching domain is called the subsurface
biosphere. In mid-March, at a workshop funded by NSF, more than 100 scientists
gathered to discuss the subsurface biosphere. Today, researchers are
following clues leading them on a fantastic descent into Earth's
subterranean world, where an entire biosphere of extremophiles ferments
in superheated, vise-pressured darkness.
Engineering Sight: Advances in Artificial Retina Development
In the surgery suites of Johns Hopkins University Hospital and the
laboratories of North Carolina State University, artificial vision is
moving out of the realm of science fiction and into reality. During a
videotaped procedure in 1994, surgeons put an electrode array into the
eye of a blind patient, and while delivering small, controlled
electrical pulses, asked what he could see. "Well," replied the
volunteer patient, "it was a black dot with a yellow ring around it."
Preparing U.S. Students for the Twenty-First Century
At a July 23rd congressional hearing on role of the federal
government in science, mathematics, engineering and technology (SMET)
education, NSF Director Neal Lane testified, "America's system of higher
education sets a world standard for excellence and inclusiveness. Yet
even this outstanding system faces challenges in preparing students for
dealing with the rapidly changing scientific and technological
landscape. The continued involvement of the federal government in SMET
education is important to instigate the major changes required for
preparing U.S. students for the twenty-first century."
The National Science Foundation is joining other federal agencies in
preparing to implement the requirements of the Government Performance and
Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. The law requires all federal agencies to account
for program results through the integration of strategic planning, budgeting and
performance measurement. On July 30, 1997, in testimony before a congressional committee, NSF Acting Deputy Director Joseph Bordogna said, "NSF has always viewed implementation of
GPRA as an opportunity to strengthen our strategic planning process and link it
to budget formulation. ...(The) Results Act provides a valuable tool for shaping
our programs and continuing to improve the already high returns on public
investments in science and engineering research and education."